By Andrew Braze
My family and I have been living and ministering fulltime in Mainland China for approximately 6 years now. People often ask us what it’s like to live in China. Our response is, “Living in China is like living in 2013 and 1930 simultaneously.” If you don’t believe me just call the man driving the horse drawn cart on his cellphone and ask him. You could also text the man plowing behind the water buffalo and he could help you understand. If that doesn’t paint a clear enough picture simply follow the migrant worker who is helping build the 41-story skyscraper back to his mud brick house. Under his bamboo slat floor you’ll possibly find a pig or two. Along the road back into the city you can watch the young man in his Ferrari honk at an old man as he stops his three-wheel bicycle in the middle of the dirt road to collect an empty beer bottle to sell.
“This is home.” In 2005 the Holy Spirit began to stir in me a heart for missions. I contacted a friend in Florida who has been traveling in and out of China for many years now. He invited me to join them on a ministry trip. I told him I would pray about traveling and ministering with them. At that time I didn’t even have a passport and I needed $3,000 for the trip. Three weeks later I was on a flight from the Chicago O'Hare International Airport to Shanghai, China. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I was seated in a window seat over the wing. After the airplane landed in China I looked out over the wing and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and said, “This is home.” Thus beginning the saga of the Braze family in China.
“You’re taking your 6 month old to China?” In 2007 my wife Elizabeth, my six month old son Joshua and I boarded an airplane bound for Guangzhou, China. This was my wife’s first time overseas. We had managed to raise a grand total of $35 of promised monthly support. Walking by faith we moved to China. Many well-meaning family and friends tried to “encourage” us by saying things like, “You’re taking your 6 month old to China?” As if we hadn’t thought of that ourselves. Our response was, “They have 1.3 billion people in China. It looks like they have the whole baby thing down to a science there.” While overseas God blessed us with our second child, Rachel Anna. She was born in Bangkok, Thailand.
“Corn Flakes” We hit the ground running and I began studying the Chinese language and culture full time at a local university. Six months later my family and I opened a Western Style Restaurant as an outreach to a 16,000 student Chinese university. At the restaurant we used English as a platform to share the Gospel with many young university students. Through this outreach young men and women came to Christ including several of our employees. We held Bible studies and worshiped the Lord together with our new friends and employees.
That restaurant is where I first began to understand what I call, “the next bowl of rice”. One of the dishes we served in the restaurant was nachos. The word for corn flakes in Chinese is yùm?piàn ???. The word for corn chips in Chinese is also yùm?piàn???. I think you can see where this story is going? To make a long story short, one day our employees changed the recipe and began serving nacho cheese over corn flakes. Why am I sharing this story? I believe this type of inconsistency happens partly because of “The Great Chinese Famine” ??????. According to Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng there were 36 million deaths due to starvation and another 40 million died before they were born. Bringing China’s total deaths during the Great Famine to 76 million. What happens when your friends, family and neighbors are starving to death right in front of you? You focus on “the next bowl of rice”. You don’t care much about what it looks like, tastes like or even if it is clean. You harden your heart to the suffering of others also as a result of such harsh conditions.
The other day I had a conversation with a retired government official here in China by the name of Mr. Liu. He said, “Americans like you have more than enough to eat and so you go out and help others. The Chinese are not so. We have more than enough to do just trying to feed the 1.3 billion people in our own country.”
As Christians sometimes we forget the position we have in Christ. We often get preoccupied thinking about “the next bowl of rice” and forget what Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-33. “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (NKJV) We simply need to receive and enjoying what our Father God has already blessed us with in Christ, then work with what He has already given us to bring glory and honor to Him. I believe the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NKJV) makes this clear. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (NKJV)
“?????” When people ask me the meaning of life (?????) I say, “To have fellowship with our Father God and bring him Glory through our lives.” Through this fellowship we hear the heart of the Father. We also experience the compassion of the Father that moved Christ to work miracles and give his life as a sacrifice for the sins, sickness and poverty of the world. Some estimates say that China has one billion, two hundred twenty million unreached people (1,220,000,000).
“Lepers Today” When we arrived in China we discovered a need we did not realize still existed in this modern day. The ministry was to those suffering from the effects of Hansen's disease or as it is more commonly known leprosy. In our province there are about 120 leper villages and over 5,000 lepers. We work with a local Chinese doctor to provide medical care, meet basic needs and minister to the spiritual needs of the lepers. We have seen many of them come to Christ. In all that we do here in China our focus is to instill in the hearts of Chinese Christians the Biblical principal that it is the responsibility of the members of the Body of Christ to minister to the widows, orphans, handicapped and the poor. When we minister in leper villages we take Chinese Christians along to accompany us and experience what it is like to be labourers together with God.
Orphans and Street Children: In 2011 we opened the Braze Family Orphan Home. We cared for 3 handicapped orphans that were abandoned by their parents. The first baby came to us with a whole in his heart. He was very lethargic and never even cried. He wasn’t getting enough oxygen to his brain and body. As prayers went up to the “father of the fatherless” this changed. I took him to the local hospital and when they performed another ultrasound the whole in his heart had been completely healed up. Glory to God! Psalm 68:5(NKJV), “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.” The second baby was born with missing fingers and no leg on his right side below his knee. The third baby was born with missing fingers and toes. We cared for these babies in 20011 and 2012 and then placed them in families. I also do consulting for a project in our city that provides care for preteens living on the streets. We are currently believing God for the finances to expand our ministry to orphans and street children.
Training and Discipling Pastors and Leaders: Our focus is to equip the Chinese for the work of ministry. We hold regular training seminars with local Chinese pastors and leaders and plan to start a Bible school here in the near future.
Annual Children’s Summer Camp Evangelistic Outreach: Every year we hold a week long character building summer camp outreach for poor migrant worker’s children. In 2012 we had 120 children attend and 40 volunteers from America, Korea, Hong Kong and Mainland China.
Hosting Short-Term Missions Trips to China: Each year we host individuals and small groups who would like to sow the love of God and Word of God into China. We have hosted people from America, Canada, Germany, England, France, South Korea and Malaysia. If you are interested in visiting China please contact us for more information.
For more information visit www.asiacommission.org